Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

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    • Dear Sir/Madam,

      Share recent literature, case studies and data that could help answer the following questions:

      1.            What are the main bottlenecks hampering the contribution of urban and peri-urban food systems to food security and nutrition?

      My answer here is India specific and may apply to South Asians in general, even those settled in industrialized countries.

      Bottleneck: Religio-cultural beliefs lowering meat consumption leading to low blood vitamin B12 levels 

       1. Prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to paralysis from sub acute combined degeneration of the spinal cord (SACD).  This disease is generally observed in people in their 70s and 80s.

      2. However, due to increasing popularity of plant based diets, either due to religious reasons or concerns for animal well-being, SACD and other B12 deficiency induced neurological injuries are now emerging in children and young adults.

      3. This is now an issue because increasing hygiene in developing countries eliminates microbial contamination as a source of vitamin B12.


      Solution: Introduce vitamin B12 warnings on vegan, vegetarian and plant based content on social media. 

      1. Social media content about plant based diets can have a vitamin B-12 information link to FAO Chp 5 Vitamin B12 page

      Readers will be subtely nudged to read more on vitamin B12 without hurting their religious sentiments. 

      2. Aggressively raise awareness about the availability of vitamin B12 from animal sourced foods only via existing UN social media channels. Vitamin B12 is ideally got from red meat.

      3. It is not industrially possible to manufacture vitamin B-12 tablets for huge portions of the population. So people in India and South Asians everywhere need to be educated about the importance of consuming livestock and fisheries derived foods.

      4. Peri-urban food systems will have to encourage raising of small ruminants to meet increased demand for red meat. More sales can take place through increased demand for small ruminant meat and fishes.


      The proposition is that Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Tiktok, Snapchat and Twitter posts related to veganism, vegetarianism, plantbased eating and exclusive breastfeeding in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka be linked to the Vitamin B12 page of the FAO. This will catalyze access to knowledge and technical expertise among the general public on the common problem of vitamin B12 deficiency and insufficiency among South Asians.
      1. Too many people forget that they were taught in class 10 (roughly age 15) that vitamin B12 is obtained from animal origin food only.
      2. Underage children who use social media either through their own accounts or those of their elders, must have some warning about vitamin B12 in case if they get 'influenced' to go vegan or vegetarian. Many of them, may not yet have learnt in school that vitamin B12 is obtained exclusively from animal sourced food. 
      3. Prolonged, undiagnosed and untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anaemia, peripheral neuropathy and subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. 
      4. There are newspaper reports from time to time, of neurological injuries and brain damage in breast fed babies of vegetarian and vegan mothers.
      5. Processed foods such as Nestlé Cerelac and formula milk which contain artificial B12 are indispensable for breast-fed babies of mothers who don't regularly consume meat. Exclusive breastfeeding advocates vehemently deny any usefulness of formula milk and vitamin B12 enhanced baby food. These individuals seem to be unaware of any consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency/insufficiency in both mother and baby.
      6. There is a trend on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to defame nutrient enhanced malt powders such as Horlicks, Bournvita, Boost, Milo, Complan and Kelloggs breakfast cereals because they contain sugar. However, these products have artificial vitamin B-12, along with other artificial nutrients that have been proven to be well-absorbed in the intestines.
      There is research to show that Indian children who regularly received these products in milk had high iron, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 levels in their blood, comparable to children who regularly eat fish.
      Worldwide, vegetarian children and children of families who are unable to eat meat frequently deserve to receive artificial vitamin B12 through fortified food, whether they know it or not.
      Why a FAO link?
      1. Linking to an UN page will be neutral and apolitical.
      2. Social media companies have previously linked COVID related posts to a WHO link that wasn't functional and wasn't getting updated. The FAO page is highly informative and up-to-date.
      3. WHO, WFP and IFAD don't have equally good educative pages about vitamins and minerals.
      4. It is not just vitamin B12 but some other nutrients are also obtained from animal origin food only. Linking posts related to veganism, vegetarianism, plantbased eating and exclusive breastfeeding (and related hashtags) to the FAO vit B12 page will be a good start.
      Expected impact:
      1. People will be nudged into reading about vitamin B12 through social media sites.
      2. Nobody changes religious opinions or socio-cultural values because of science. However, they will at least have a possibility of stumbling upon information that they are deliberately excluding a nutrient from their diet that is only available from animal sourced food or certain processed foods. 
      3. More people will actively get tested and seek corrective action from their physicians.
      4. People will have access to a correct source of information about vitamin B12. Many articles and videos on the net wrongly list plant sources of vitamin B12 when there are none.
      SDG 2 reiterates the global commitment to ending all forms of malnutrition by 2025. ICTs can be effectively deployed for gender responsive digitalization to raise awareness surrounding targets to stop stunting and wasting in children below the age of 5 & to tackle the nutritional needs of pubescent girls, expectant and lactating mothers and senior citizens. 

      I remain available for further answers and discussion.

      Thank you for your time and attention.

      Best regards, 

      Natalia Hule